With À Paris
Jacky Terrasson comes up with another twist to follow his "What it Is" album from two years ago. That 1999 album on Blue Note, with Terrasson in an ensemble setting featuring Michael Brecker and Mino Cinelu, received mixed reviews amid suspicion that it was an overproduced record. This record however should hold up better- especially now that the initial shock of Jacky Terrasson having departed from his strongly-associated trio format is over.
À Paris is a concept record that is intended to be a heartfelt tribute by Mr.Terrasson to the city of his youth. And just in seeing the nostalgia-laden cover pics and the song titles one gets a certain waft of the affection for Paris that Jacky has. So high expectations for the re-creation of the aura of Paris are induced by the outer shell for the listener...Indeed, we can see the beauty of the city from above but what you ask, is going on down on the streets, the thoroughfare- below?
If this album had been called "Thorough Parisian Fare" it would have been too apt; Terrasson covers a variety of stylistic territory and it is all fairly alluring. So this record is not at all unlike the bustling open markets in Paris in fact. Present here are many colors, many textures, and of course many sounds. The only thing not supplied is scents and smells, but word has it that Jacky did recommend packaging the cd in a basket with a bottle of Beaujolais and some Camembert.
Alas this record is worthy on its own merits, irrespective of any Parisian/French references that is.
The content of À Paris is mostly French folk songs and anthems plus three originals by Jacky in what is a total of 14 tracks. Some of the tracks are quite short, more like interludes than true songs, but none of them smacks of "filler." They add rather than detract from the sound palette here. The closing track is of this kind and it is appropriately exuberant but gone-before- you-know-it, like a wistful goodbye party perhaps.
The title track is the longest track at 8:49 and is one of the strongest tracks if not the strongest track of À Paris. Written in two sections, it moves from plaintiveness to a languid bluesiness with mellow ease. Bireli Lagrene, fellow French compatriot, is the sublime lead voice on this track and he negotiates both sections in an exquisite way. Also, Jacky's solos are evidence that he is further maturing- to the point that he seems an equal to the doubtless mature Lagrene.
The track which follows À Paris then offers just one example of one of the main strengths of this album: the thoughtful way in which the tracks have been arranged in sequence. "I Love Paris in the Springtime" as a more funky and audacious piece is a perfect counter to the autumnal sounding track that comes before it. Indeed, the ordering of the tracks here exploits the chasm between the more subdued pieces and the more bright or intense ones to a remarkable extent. Surely no one will be expecting "Jeux Interdits" after having heard "Les Chemins d'amour". The former features Stefano Di Battista on sax (making tense Kenny Garrett-like ruminations), and the thing about it's character relative to the latter is that it's as internally diverse as the track overall is different relative to the one coming. Again, a lot of interesting contrast here...
Jacky makes full use of a dynamic sound palette on À Paris. It's not clear what particular pieces are supposed to necessarily evoke, but it is clear that there is plenty of evocative material for wherever one's mind chooses to wander here.
Other highlights of this album include "Ne Me Quitte Pas" , which brings Jacky back full circle to the Jarrett/Evans trio aesthetic, only to once again- diversify! It introduces harmonica player Gregoire Maret out of nowhere and gets infected with spare blues, the track altered immeasurably before it slides back into the trio concept to go out in a wistful way. "La Vie en Rose" is a provincial French song given to a spicy Brazilian treatment, and the results are a fine world music alchemy, hinting perhaps at the worldly cosmopolitanism of Paris. Finally, "I Love you More" is a loving, tender piece which few will not find themselves reflecting by.
It should be added that Jacky's work on Rhodes organ is noted for his exceptional taste. Jacky is clearly one of the musicians on the forefront of reviving the Rhodes as a legitimate jazz instrument, retro temptations aside. Any context Jacky employs Rhodes, it sounds organic. The Rhodes is overdubbed over a piano track on a few of the tracks here, but it is done in a way that is neither intrusive nor overtly manipulating.
The only down point on this record that could possibly be remarked on is that shortness of tracks alluded to earlier. One could argue that some of the pieces here are mere novelty pieces. Be that true or not, there is enough substance on the whole however to defray this point as being all that relevant, and aside from that minor issue, there is really no beef with À Paris. Or as the French might say: "Il n'ya pas de biftec." À Paris I suppose (tourist ignorance not withstanding) is a worthy tribute to the City of light, and it is moreover- a worthy jazz recording. This is a stellar and diverse compilation of moods and invocations that Jacky Terrasson has assembled on record here, and the musicians who pull it off with him were no doubt assembled with similar such thougthfulness.